Saturday, 20 October 2012

Dr. Brenda Boardman

I've admired from afar the work of Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute over a longish period: in its early days, when the geographical ambit of the Summerfield Trust was wider, we gave it some money; but I never met its best-known pioneer, Brenda Boardman. For 17 years, she and her husband John helped to fly Oxford University's environmental flag, starting from a time when the word "environment" featured within no other department's title.

It was a pleasure therefore to find myself sitting between Brenda and John at the annual lunch of the Gloucestershire branch of the Oxford Society today, at the Three Choirs Vineyard. Afterwards we heard from Brenda, not only about the genesis of the ECI's inter-disciplinary work on the environment, but with her appraisal that there's currently a sorry lack of joined up green thinking within the University.

She described the situation as "both brilliant and heartbreaking": despite fairly recent endowment being provided for more than one new institution at Oxford, working in the environmental field, "we are still largely living in the realm of wishful thinking." All the Colleges come up with when asked for their response to the challenge of climate change are toe-dipping gestures such as the LMH allotments.

"Oxford's four most recent buildings are the four buildings which are Oxford's heaviest users of electricity." The University has lasted for 900 years, but with the problems the world faces, it's almost impossible to conceive it lasting another 900 years unchanged, she sighed - as did we all.

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